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IPA Declaration of the Child’s Right to Play

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The IPA Declaration of the Child’s Right to Play was produced in November 1977 at the IPA Malta Consultation held in preparation for the International Year of the Child (1979).  It was revised by the IPA International Council in Vienna, September 1982, and Barcelona, September 1989.  It should be read in conjunction with Article 31 of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (adopted by the General Assembly of the U.N., November 20, 1989), which states that the child has a right to leisure, play and participation in cultural and artistic activities.


CHILDREN are the foundation of the world’s future.

CHILDREN have played at all times throughout history and in all cultures.

PLAY, along with the basic needs of nutrition, health, shelter and education, is vital to develop the potential of all children.

PLAY is communication and expression, combining thought and action; it gives satisfaction and a feeling of achievement.

PLAY is instinctive, voluntary, and spontaneous.

PLAY is a means of learning to live, not a mere passing of time.


IPA is deeply concerned by a number of alarming trends and their negative impact on children’s development.

  • Society’s indifference to the importance of play
  • Over-emphasis on theoretical and academic studies in schools.
  • Increasing numbers of children living with inadequate provisions for survival and development.
  • Inadequate environmental planning, which results in a lack of basic amenities, inappropriate housing forms, and poor traffic management.
  • Increasing commercial exploitation of children and the deterioration of cultural traditions.
  • Lack of access for third world women to basic training in childcare and development.
  • Inadequate preparation of children to cope with life in a rapidly changing society.
  • Increasing segregation of children in the community.
  • The increasing numbers of working children, and their unacceptable working conditions.
  • Constant exposure of children to war, violence, exploitation and destruction.
  • Over-emphasis on unhealthy competition and “winning at all costs” in children’s sports.


The following proposals are listed under the names of government departments having a measure of responsibility for children.
Play is essential for the physical and mental health of the child.

  • Establish programmes for professionals and parents about the benefits of play from birth onwards.
  • Ensure basic conditions (nutrition, sanitation, clean water and air) which promote the healthy survival and development of all children.
  • Incorporate play into community programmes designed to maintain children’s physical and mental health.
  • Include play as an integral part of all children’s environments, including hospitals and other institutional settings.
  • Education
    Play is part of education.

    • Provide opportunities for initiatives, interaction, creativity and socialization through play in formal education systems.
    • Include studies of the importance of play and the means of play provision in the training of all professionals and volunteers working with and for children.
    • Strengthen play provision in primary schools to enhance learning and to maintain attendance and motivation.
    • Reduce the incompatibilities between daily life, work and education by involving schools and colleges, and by using public buildings for community play programs.
    • Ensure that working children have access to play and learning opportunities outside of the system of formal education.

    Play is an essential part of family and community life.

    • Ensure that play is accepted as an integral part of social development and social care.
    • Promote measures that strengthen positive relationships between parents and children.
    • Ensure that play is part of community-based services designed to integrate children with physical, mental or emotional disabilities into the community.
    • Provide safe play environments that protect children against abduction, sexual abuse and physical violence.

    Children need opportunities to play at leisure.

    • Provide time, space, materials, natural settings, and programmes with leaders where children may develop a sense of belonging, self-esteem, and enjoyment through play.
    • Enable interaction between children and people of all backgrounds and ages in leisure settings.
    • Encourage the conservation and use of traditional indigenous games.
    • Stop the commercial exploitation of children’s play, and the production and sale of war toys and games of violence and destruction.
    • Promote the use of co-operative games and fair play for children in sports.
    • Provide all children, particularly those with special needs, with access to a diversity of play environments, toys and play materials through community programmes such as pre-school play groups, toy libraries and play buses.

    The needs of the child must have priority in the planning of human settlements.

    • Ensure that children and young people can participate in making decisions that affect their surroundings and their access to them.
    • When planning new, or reorganizing existing developments, recognise the child’s small size and limited range of activity.
    • Disseminate existing knowledge about play facilities and play programmes to planning professionals and politicians.
    • Oppose the building of high-rise housing and provide opportunities to mitigate its detrimental effects on children and families.
    • Enable children to move easily about the community by providing safe pedestrian access through urban neighbourhoods, better traffic management, and improved public transportation.
    • Increase awareness of the high vulnerability of children living in slum settlements, tenements, and derelict neighbourhoods.
    • Reserve adequate and appropriate space for play and recreation through statutory provision.


    IPA is determined to sustain the momentum created by the International Year of the Child in 1979 to arouse world opinion for the improvement of the life of children, and;

    AFFIRMS its belief in the United Nations’ Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which in Article 7 states “The child shall have full opportunity to play and recreation, which should be directed to the same purposes as education;  society and the public authorities shall endeavour to promote the enjoyment of this right;”  and endorses its belief in Article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    RECOGNISES that the population of children in developing countries is three quarters of the world’s total child population, and that efforts directed at the promotion of education and literacy, and the stopping of environmental deprivation would improve the capacities of the poorest.

    AFFIRMS its commitment to working with other national and international organisations to ensure basic conditions of survival for all children in order that they may fully develop as human beings.

    ACKNOWLEDGES that each country is responsible for preparing its own courses of public and political action in the light of its culture, climate and social, political and economic structure;

    RECOGNISES that the full participation of the community is essential in planning and developing programmes and services to meet the needs, wishes and aspirations of children.

    ASSURES its co-operation with UN agencies and other international and national organizations involved with children.

    APPEALS to all countries and organizations to take action to counteract the alarming trends which jeopardise children’s healthy development and to give high priority to long term programmes designed to ensure for all time:



    Note on the IPA organization.  (4 paragraphs)

    For further information contact:

    (Back Cover)


    In 1971 the IPA Board decided that it was important to cooperate with the UN organizations.   We are recognized by ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) and UNICEF, and work in agreement with their principles.  They give a context to our work as follows:

    • Our focus on human rights, specifically the Child’s Right to Play as stated in the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of the Child and now embodied in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
    • Our feeling of solidarity with children all over the world.
    • Our involvement in peace education.  IPA has been appointed as a Messenger of Peace by the United Nastions.
    • Our commitment to the development of each individual to the maximum of their potential, the protection and enhancement of their culture, and the importance of the family and the community.

One Response

  1. jennifer russo

    Thank you

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